Category Archives: discipleship

The Difference Between Submission & Resignation

“There is a significant difference between submission and resignation.”

I don’t remember the full details of the context, but I will never forget the phrase uttered our dear friend and mentor, Judge Bill McCurine. I believe we were having a college gathering in their home, a chance for brand new believers in the beginning of their spiritual journeys to learn from two seasoned veterans of the faith. I believe someone asked about trusting God with singleness. To be honest, I am thankful I don’t remember the immediate context, because the phrase has led to rich application in nearly every arena of my life.

The Difference Defined
According to the Oxford Dictionary,  resignation means, “the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable.”  In fact, the usage example says “i.e. a shrug of resignation.”

I, along with the rest of the Chick-fil-A loving hordes, sigh in resignation every Sunday when we, like clockwork, have a craving for a sandwich and waffle fries, only  to remember it is closed on Sunday.

On the surface, resignation bends the will, changes the schedule, and faces the reality of something unwanted; however, under the surface, at the soul and heart level, it can leave an insidious residue of bitterness, distrust, and frustration. Much like the teenage, “Fine” that is accompanied by huffing, puffing, and foot-stomping, resignation bows but does not fully trust.

Submission, on the other hand, is something altogether different. While they may appear almost identical initially, the degrees of separation between resignation and submission become more evident over time.

Biblical submission is much different than the world’s version which seems often to include force and demonstrations of raw authority and power. The Greek word, hupotasso, translated submit, is a compounding of two words, one meaning “under” and the other meaning “arrangement.” Thus, a biblical definition of submission is to place yourself under God’s arrangement of things, to submit under the Lord’s plan in trusting obedience.

While its outward bowing and releasing of control mirror resignation,  its internal source is quite different. Rather than sighing out of inability to change something, it sighs and submits in a trusting way,  believing that the heart of God knows and does better than we could ever know or do.

The Difference Experienced
If  I am being honest, I my soul has been swinging back and forth between resignation and submission these past few weeks since COVID-19 settled in to stay. If you know me, you know that my Sabbath time on Sundays is my lifeline.  Since my oldest was a  few weeks old,  I have been escaping away to a coffee shop for vital connection with God through His word and prayer and wrestling. As silly as it may seem, the getting away feels like going to a secret place to be alone with the Lord, not as a mother or a women’s ministry director or a wife, just as his desperate daughter.

Another example of my routine being off. I resigned to Sabbath by walking our neighborhood, but I was not happy about it, as evidenced by my pace and posture. A fuming little teapot speed-walking through the neighborhood was I. It was not just the monkey wrench in my treasured Sabbath rhythm, it was all of  it.  Disinfecting groceries, Zoom phone calls instead of face-to-face gatherings, tight spaces and tighter wallets.

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But in that walk, the Lord reminded me that this is not what trusting submission looks like. He began to undo my  grumpy heart and remind me of the absolutely proven nature of his love.

Stay

The too-much-ness out there,
Draws out ineptness in here.
What busyness used to filter,
Now gathers in latent fear.

Your love blocked all my exits,
Enticing my going soul to stay.
Fleeting flings aren’t enough:
You would have me all the day.

It’s scary to sit so still, so long,
Without demand or distraction.
You want uninsulated intimacy,
The whole of me, not a fraction.

This blocking love can be trusted,
Even if the checking seems unchecked,
For You died to unblock life eternal,
Giving abundance for my neglect.

Though chosen,  I feel choice-less,
Yet an important choice remains;
Resign in apathy or submit in love.
Your submission my choice trains.

So, stay I must but I also shall,
Living within lines You’ve drawn.
And come again You can and will.
Your coming is sure as the dawn.

May we learn to submit this season to a trustworthy Father rather than resign in avowed apathy.  This too shall pass.

Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. Psalm 31: 21.

 

Common Ground & Uncommon Hope

In a matter of weeks, the world, once divided on a thousand fronts (party lines, economic lines, national borders, and imaginary borders), has found a great amount of common ground. I revel in the fact that we recognize that we are all in this together. I teared up reading stories of Chinese doctors flying to Italy with supplies and experience after having pushed backed this disease in their nation. I love that our neighborhood email thread has stopped being about which way to vote on propositions and become a bartering station instead. I wonder at the fact that people seem to be seeing each other as fellow people rather than economic units or potential sales.

Yet I fear that we will forget that in the midst of common ground, we also have an uncommon hope.

I keep forgetting that while we are in this together, my neighbors most likely do not have a lasting and living hope that can weather this storm and bring them to safe harbor eternally. While we can and should laugh together about silly songs and toilet paper memes, we cannot stay there. We must point them from our common ground to our uncommon hope.

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Remember Your Uncommon Hope

In Romans 8, in the context of the children of God groaning inwardly as they wait eagerly full adoption, Paul reminds the believers in Rome that hope, by nature, is unseen.

For in his hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:24-25). 

Now, more than ever before, as our culture bends to an unseen virus, we have grounds  to talk about unseen, but powerfully shaping realities. But before we can offer our unseen hope, we must be shaped by it ourselves. We must remember our living hope.

The apostle Peter who had known Christ as a living man was devastated to watch him die (even if it was likely from afar). He was astonished to see him alive once again, never more to die again. It seems he had this Resurrected Jesus in mind when he wrote to a flagging church that was weighed down by suffering and trials. After his brief introduction to the elect exiles of the dispersion, he immediately reminds them of their living hope.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living  hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead  (1Peter 1:3). 

Hope in a vaccine, while a good hope, is a not a living hope. Hope in global humanitarian efforts, while appropriate in their right place, is not a living hope. While these will do good work to rescue bodies, they have no power to save souls. None of these hopes can deliver us from the penalty of death, none of them can walk us through the passageway of death to an eternal hope.

The living hope of the Resurrected Christ should be the anthem of the church. As Pope John Paul II so powerfully said,  “We are an Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

Recommend Your Uncommon Hope

I have been convicted about the short sentences that I have been exchanging with our walking neighbors (at an appropriate social distance, of course). I have done an excellent job recognizing common ground by saying things like “This is crazy, isn’t it? Let me know if you guys need anything!” or asking “Are y’all staying sane over there?” However, I want to think proactively about questions or prompts that could lead to deeper conversations or further follow up.

While this may sound formulaic and unnatural to some, intentionality and preparation are tools we use in nearly every other area of life. After all, we are not opposed to thinking intentionally about Instagram posts or tweets. A similar preparation for business meetings or sales pitches is celebrated, not ridiculed. How much more thoughtful should we be when dealing with far more lasting matters: human souls that will live eternally.

If we are dealing with living hope rather than social influencing or sales numbers,  it seems we would do well to be prepared. These are my best attempts at hinge sentences that might lead to a dialogue about hope.

  • “My family and I are using some of this extra time to pray more often. How can we pray for you?”
  • “How are you processing all of this right now? What is helping you cope with all this upheaval?”
  • “I did not grow up in a religious household, but God intervened in my life in college and brought me into a relationship with him. That relationship shapes all of my life and gives me a lasting hope. I would love to share more of my story with you if you ever want to hear it. I would also love to hear more of your spiritual journey.”

Whatever your style, it is the privilege and calling of all believers to move into common ground offering an uncommon hope.

The Squeeze and the Savior

While I have never been diagnosed with textbook claustrophobia, I hate tight places. Elevators, tunnels and all other small spaces make my heart race and my palms sweat. I can rescue a child from the Chick-fil-A playplace blackhole like the best of them, but other than that, I try my hardest to avoid squishy, smushy places in the external world.

Similarly, my soul hates tight, restricting places and situations. With the exception of contortionists, I believe that most humans share my sentiments to varying degrees of intensity. Humans try to avoid being squeezed. Continue reading

The Magnifying Glass of Motherhood

Aleksandr Solzhneitsyn said of his prison cell in the Russian gulag that it taught him how to run a magnifying glass over life.

Not the perspective one would expect from a man falsely-imprisoned in one of the most cruel prison systems in history.

“Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made
to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.” Continue reading

How the Local Church Can Shine in a Global Pandemic

As I sat down this morning with extra time on my hands from cancelled meetings and appointments, I found my soul stalled out. It seems the incredible amount of statistical information and news stories have left me (and most people, I would presume) paralyzed.

Graphs of flattening curves and comparisons between countries who have responded well or poorly to COVID-19 kept flashing to the forefront of my mind. As such, I was having a hard time knowing how to pray. Continue reading

Fully Opened

As the Spring breaths its new life over a weary, wintered earth, things begin to open. Buds bravely begin the process of opening themselves from being tightly bound, exposing themselves to the outside air.

But buds are not the only tightly bound things. Hearts, hands, and souls are also bound and closed. Exposure to the brokenness of the world constricts the soul. Fears tend to tighten hearts in reflexive self-protection; however, exposure to Christ opens the soul in hope, eager expectation, and even a vulnerable love. Continue reading

The Broadest Base for Boasting

Our culture loves platforms. Any business person, any blogger, or any entrepreneur has heard the pitch on the necessity of building and maintaining a platform. The church is not immune to this strategy. In fact, platforms, audiences, and subscribers can easily become a base for boasting both outside and inside the church. If your platform and base for boasting is built on your self or your gifts, you will find yourself on a shaky base and stuck in a mindset of scarcity; however, if your platform and base for boasting is your Savior, you have the steadiest and broadest base for boasting. Even beyond that, you will find that your platform is a place of abundance that invites collaboration rather than competition. 

Two different kings of Israel illustrate these two different approaches to boasting and platform-building.

Saul & the Shrinking Base 

Saul began on the grounds of humility, as seen when he was initially approached by Samuel as the Lord’s selection of the king His people had demanded. Saul, who was on a mission to find  the missing donkeys of his father, was taken aback by the prophet’s interest in him.

“Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the  tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”1 Samuel 9:21.   

After his first God-empowered timely military victory over Nahash the Ammonite, Saul was quick to give all honor and glory to God, even when some of his awe-stricken soldiers wanted  to put death all who had publicly doubted the newly anointed king. 

But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel”…There they sacrificed peace offerings before the Lord, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly. 1 Samuel 11:14-15. 

However,  it did not take long for Saul’s platform to begin to shift from the Lord to himself. Despite the fact that God had proven Himself so obviously faithful and able against the Ammonites,  Saul took action without waiting on word from the Lord against the Philistines only three years later. When confronted by Samuel on his selfish haste, Saul’s answer betrayed this shifting, shrinking platform that would lead to full-blown competitive paranoia as he aged.

Samuel said, “What have you done? And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed,  and that the Philistines had mustered as Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering. 1 Samuel 13:11-12. 

The shift may seem subtle to us, but both Samuel and the Lord knew that Saul’s heart gaze had turned from God to self and audience. Things disintegrate fairly quickly from here, as recorded in the chapters which follow. The remainder of book depicts Saul as a paranoid, jealous former king fighting to hold on to the scraps of his platform. 

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David & the Broad Base

David and Saul had similar enough beginnings. Both were Benjaminites who were chosen and anointed as kings in the midst of their obedience to their earthly fathers, one searching for donkeys, the other tending the flocks in the fields. Both received their selection in humility and shocked submission. However, when David who had already been secretly anointed as the future king, came face to face with the Philistines, most notably their giant Goliath, David stayed on the broader boasting ground of God. 

Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God. And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.” 1 Samuel  17:36-37

Throughout the many attempts on his life by the paranoid Saul, David continually fought to wait  on and rely upon the Lord. During one of his flights for his life, David fled to Gath where he found himself in the clutches of another jealous king, Abimilech. David later penned Psalm 34 around this episode as an invitation to God’s people to boast in the Lord.

I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us  exalt his name forever. Psalm 34:1-3. 

Despite the fact that David was abundantly gifted as a warrior, as a poet, and as a leader of God’s people, he fought to make the abundant God His base for boasting. As such, he did not become a jealous platform protector, competing with others for a scarcity of praise. 

Rather, he was able to invite others onto the platform that he knew was ultimately God’s platform. Rather than viewing others as competitors, he invited them in as contributors. 

The character and goodness of our God is the platform God invites each of us people to stand upon and boast in. There is ample room on this base for more. When we choose this platform rather than the shrinking platform of self with its fickle audience of man, we can echo David’s invitation: Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name forever. 

Even more than King David, we can look to the eternal Son of David, Christ, who made the Cross his platform that we might receive His crown.